For the past few years, I've written the introduction to Esquire's "Most Anticipated Documentaries" of the year list. It's when I close the book on last year's best of the best, and look ahead to the next year in the genre. Now, I genuinely mean this when I write it: every single time, I feel like the next wave of docs will beat the prior year's lineup... which I already felt was pretty damn great.
It's no different this year—2024's slate of documentaries is already looking like an all-timer to my eye. We'll see another season of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, a long-awaited portrait of Christopher Reeve, a Devo film (!), and much, much, more. Before you make your way through our list, a quick disclaimer: we saw many of these films at Sundance this January. If you see us raving about a documentary that hasn't premiered yet—but wondering if Apple TV+'s Lionel Messi docuseries will tell us anything new about the quick-footed Argentinian—you have your answer. Enjoy, folks.
Ennio (February 9, In Theaters)
Ennio Morricone was one of the greatest film composers of all time. Known for his hit western scores (Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, and countless more), Morricone's story has finally been told by those who remember him best.
Messi's World Cup: The Rise of a Legend (February 21, Apple TV+))
The next World Cup won't grace the Greater New Jersey Swamp (AKA MetLife Stadium) until 2026. Tide yourself over with Messi's World Cup: The Rise of a Legend, which will document Argentina's recent World Cup win—and, of course, profile the man who made it happen.
Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds (February 23, Disney+)
Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds dives into the mind of one of the greatest minds in the history of video games: Hideo Kojima. The creator of Metal Gear Solid, Death Stranding, and an upcoming project with Jordan Peele, Kojima is known for his distinctive cinematic vision. Connecting Worlds will provide rare insight into his process, featuring appearances from his collaborators, such as Guillermo del Toro, Nicholas Winding Refn, Grimes, George Miller, and Norman Reedus.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive (February 24, Netflix)
Do I really need to sell you on Formula 1: Drive to Survive? Season 5 hits Netflix in less than two weeks. Enough said.
Frida (March 14, Prime Video)
Carla Gutiérrez, the director behind 2018's stellar RBG, turns her attention toward Mexican painter Frida Khalo, who is celebrated as one of the most complex and colorful artists of our time.
As We Speak: Rap Music on Trial (TBA, Paramount+)
Way before Young Thug's sudden and controversial arrest on RICO charges, rap lyrics have long been debated in courtrooms. As We Speak, a new documentary premiering on Paramount+ this year, argues that artistic expression does not equal confession.
Ibelin (TBA, Netflix)
Ibelin wasn't just one of the best documentaries that premiered at Sundance this year—it was one of the best films at the festival, period. I recommend you don't know much about Ibelin going in, but the film follows Mats Steen, a who died from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at 25. Mats's parents thought he lived a reclusive life, but learn—in the days following his death—that Mats had a multitude of friends (and lovers!) in World of Warcraft.
Black Box Diaries (TBA)
Journalist Shiori Itō became the face of Japan's #MeToo Movement in 2020, after revealing that she was sexually assaulted. Black Box Diaries details how Itō was forced to lead her own investigation—which resulted in one of the country's most landmark cases.
Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story (TBA)
The defining Christopher Reeve documentary has been a long time coming. Thankfully, it'll arrive on a screen near you this year. Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story tells the story of the iconic Superman actor, who was paralyzed from the shoulders down after a horse-riding accident in 1995.
Daughters follows four young girls as they prepare for a special Daddy Daughter Dance with their incarcerated fathers. The Washington D.C. program—which unites families that are separated by an unfair criminal justice system—provides a rare opportunity for fathers to promise their daughters that they will be there for them when they leave prison. Grab your tissues, because Daughters is a real tear-jerker.
Devo may be known for their LEGO-looking hats and their hit song, "Whip It!"—but the group was actually born out of a response to the Kent State massacre. Through personal testimonials and archived performance footage, Devo is a celebration of the wacky '80s band and a chance for the group to tell their own story.
Girls State (TBA)
If you saw 2020's excellent Boys State, Apple Original Films is back this year with Girls State—which shows another side to peculiar American leadership event. But when this year's Girls State doesn't feel equal to the events over at Boys State, the conference's young women decide to make their thoughts known.
Seeking Mavis Beacon (TBA)
If you're of a certain age (*cough* a middle-aged millennial, like me *cough*), you remember Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Through a variety of not-so-thrilling tasks—try typing your way out of the grocery store checkout line—the PC game taught countless children how to type on a keyboard. In Seeking Mavis Beacon, two women attempt to find the cover model—and a crucial conversation about race in media and tech unfolds.
Luther: Never Too Much
Luther Vandross is one of my favorite singers of all time. Though a myriad of issues plagued his career—including he media's insistent comments about his weight and his sexuality—his sultry and impressive vocals had the world weak in the knees. Luther: Never Too Much finally captures the career of the R&B "Love Doctor" in one concise music biopic full of archival footage and stories from the late singer's closest friends.
Sue Bird: In the Clutch (TBA)
Leading up to the announcement of her retirement, WNBA legend Sue Bird chronicled her career as one of the greatest point guards of all time. The result, Sue Bird: In the Clutch, delves into issues plaguing the WNBA today, such as pay inequality, lack of proper maternity care, and the dangers of playing abroad in Russia.
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